West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith has had a spectacular, record-breaking season. He broke both West Virginia and Big East records for passing yards, as well as several other records such as number of games with over 300 yards passing.
Smith was also incredibly efficient, throwing 25 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. Statistically, Smith was one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Unfortunately for Geno Smith, national perception doesn't always mirror reality. His accomplishments have been largely overlooked and he is normally not given his proper due as a member of the upper echelon of the nation's quarterbacks.
Despite re-writing the record books, Smith was passed up for Big East Offensive Player of the Year by Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead, who wasn't even the leading rusher in the conference. That snub has nothing to do with Smith's on-field production or any off-field incidents either—it is all about perception (as well as some bitterness over West Virginia leaving the Big East for the Big 12 in the near future).
Critics claim that Smith is simply a product of Dana Holgorsen's high-powered offensive system. They also fault him for the team's mental lapses that cost the Mountaineers in losses to LSU, Syracuse and Louisville.
Most of the criticisms against Geno Smith have no merit, but that doesn't stop them from being propagated. Until Smith can lead the Mountaineers to a truly big win, the critics will keep spreading lies about him.
The Orange Bowl presents just such an opportunity for Smith to quiet his critics. Aside from the National Championship Game, the stage doesn't get much bigger than one of the BCS Bowls.
A win against Clemson in the Orange Bowl would finally give Geno Smith the "big" win that would be impossible for his critics to dismiss or for the nation to ignore. It would also make him a serious Heisman candidate next season.